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Exciting News

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It has been well over a month since I have posted anything and there’s a good reason.  I am three months pregnant!  Eric and I decided we were ready and succeeded on the first try!  This is our first baby and the first grandchild on both sides, so it’s a very exciting event for everyone.  My first trimester was a little rough.  I had a lot of fatigue, nausea, and heartburn, but I’m starting to feel much better.  I was coming home from work every day, throwing together some kind of meal, then laying down on the couch and staying there pretty much all evening.  I hadn’t felt the drive to write at all, so the blog has been quiet.  I plan to step it up now while I still can, before the third trimester and the arrival of our little munchkin, when I’ll have no time whatsoever.

Oh, and an important note.  When talking with my Certified Nurse Midwife about eating healthy during the pregnancy, I told her I was vegan and she was very pleased to hear it.  She kept saying that I was eating a very healthy diet, so all should be well.  I did admit I had been eating a lot of bread lately, because it helps settle my stomach.  She told me that the first trimester is pretty much a free pass because you eat what you can.  All blood tests so far have come out great – further confirmation that a vegan diet is nothing but healthy.

Anyway, that’s my news!  I’ll report back on being vegan while pregnant!


Days Twenty-One through Twenty-Four

Another Vegan in 30 Days update!

Day 21:  Meet other vegans

Taylor explains that it’s nice to have vegans in your life to call on for help, suggestions, motivation, and recipes.  My sisters are that for me.  Alli and I commiserate about the sad way that many omnivores just don’t want to know anything about what they put in their bodies and how it got to their plate.  She helps keep me accountable and motivated.  Sammi has lost a ton of weight (over 60 pounds now!) doing a juice fast.  She has inspired me so much that I will soon go on a juice fast myself.  In terms of meeting other vegans, I have recently been searching out other vegan blogs and found a few people, like myself, who just began their journeys.  It helps to see that other people take it one baby step at a time and that no one is perfect from the moment they decide to become vegan.

Day 22:  Stay Motivated!

Taylor feels the same way that I do about staying motivated; the best way is to continue to learn about it.  I originally became vegan because of health and environmental reasons as well as care for animals, but I hadn’t seen any of the films about factory farms.  I heard about the documentary titled Earthlings, and was lucky enough to find it on you tube.  I highly recommend it to everyone.  It may be hard to watch, but imagine the torture for the animals that live it.

Day 23:  Begin taking vitamin B12 and ground flaxseed

According to the book, “vitamin B12 is the only nutrient that is not readily found in the westernized vegan diet.”  While some may say that this is indication of human need for animal meat in the diet, this conclusion is incorrect.  Meat products do have B12, but that B12 originates from soil, not meat.  The animals that we eat get B12 from the soil bits attached to the grass that they are fed, etc.  I picked up B12 supplements at Sprouts yesterday.

As for ground flaxseed, this is recommended because it is a good source for omega-3 fatty acids.  People tend to believe that a good source for omega-3’s is fish, but they don’t realize that most of the fish available to us comes from polluted fish farms.  You’re getting a nasty side of mercury and insecticides with your omega-3’s!  I have taken to adding ground flaxseed to my smoothies.  I don’t even notice it’s there, so it’s a good way to get it in to my diet.

Day 24:  Eliminate all dairy

Much like with eggs, I have eliminated all consumption of dairy products except for occasional trouble with its use as an ingredient.  When I’m not sure if it may be an ingredient, I choose something else to eat.  It’s that simple.

Days Eleven & Eighteen through Twenty

It’s been a while since I have written on my progress with Vegan in 30 Days by Sarah Taylor.  I have used her book as a guide for the 30 steps it takes to go vegan.  I couldn’t do it in 30 days straight because I was interrupted by a trip to Europe and I have been too busy since, but I think it’s the final result that matters, not how I got there.

Day 11:  Fruit and veg cleanse

I didn’t write about this because I wrote about the first one and this went pretty much the same way.

Day 18:  Buy a veggie chopper

I looked into a food processor because it would have multiple functions (chopping veggies, making sauces, making hummus).  I just haven’t made a purchase yet because I think I would like to invest in a higher quality one and I need to allow some time to save up.

Day 19:  Treat yourself!

Taylor suggests showing your vegan pride and purchasing a shirt, or buying a new vegan cookbook to treat yourself.  I already have an awesome vegan cookbook that I’m working through, so I bought myself some non-dairy chocolate hazelnut spread.  I love Nutella, which was only reinforced on our trip to Paris, but it has dairy in it.  I came across a non-dairy version at Target called Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter for just under $10.  It’s quite oily, but it kind of reminds me of the natural peanut butter my mom bought when I was a kid.  It’s a little nuttier tasting, but I like it.  It’s about three times the price of Nutella, so I’ll just take care not to purchase a lot of it.  Probably a good idea in general anyway.

Day 20:  Eliminate eggs

I haven’t eaten eggs on their own since before we went to Europe, but I have consumed items that use egg as an ingredient since then.  That seems to be the toughest part of veganism.  I can avoid all animal products in food that I prepare myself because I have the ingredients in front of me, but when out at a restaurant or at a friend’s for dinner, I wonder what exactly is in the bread. To deal with this, I am making an effort to plan ahead and, failing that, I make safe choices.

Our friend had a barbeque for his birthday last weekend, so Eric and I planned ahead.  We brought loads of corn and a yellow watermelon to share.  Seriously!  I never knew that yellow watermelons existed!  I also made the black bean burgers, wrapped in foil and ready to toss on the grill, along with vegan hamburger buns and a little Daiya cheese.  I really loved my meal, had plenty to eat, and felt good about myself.


Check back tomorrow for the rest of the update!

Days Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen

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Day Fourteen: Gather vegan recipes

You would only have to check my blog or my Pinterest board to see all of the vegan recipes that I have gathered so far!  I think I’ve got this one covered.

Day Fifteen: Try a new recipe

Sarah Taylor of Vegan in 30 Days suggests trying one new recipe a week for a year.  That’s my vegan recipe a week goal as well.  Once the Fall semester begins, I will be working full time and will be at school until 10pm three nights a week, so this will be challenging to maintain.  Hopefully, with my slow cooker and some weekend cooking, I will be able to keep it up.

Day Sixteen: Eliminate fish and seafood

This is really simple for me.  I have never liked seafood and haven’t had more than a bite (just to try it and confirm that, yes, I still hate it) since probably 5th grade.

Day Seventeen: Commit to the kitchen

Taylor, author of Vegan in 30 Days, stresses the need to put a little more time into the preparation of our food in order to get a healthier outcome.  I have already committed to having a healthy green smoothie every morning and now that I have a new blender and got the hang of it, it takes only about 15 minutes a day from start to finish.

I use kale, spinach, and sometimes celery, with one green apple, around 5 frozen strawberries, a heaping handful of frozen mixed berries, and a splash of water and soy milk.  It’s simple to make, with many things prepared in advance, and I can take it with me to work in the mornings.

Sarah Taylor also suggests making one-pot meals, such as the slow cooker ones found in my favorite recipe book, The Vegan Slow Cooker: Simply Set It and Go with 150 Recipes for Intensely Flavorful, Fuss-Free Fare Everyone (Vegan or Not!) Will Devour.  The preparation is usually small, but Eric and I get enough for dinner and leftovers every time.

Days Nine, Ten, Twelve, and Thirteen

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Day Nine:  Add a large salad every day

The purpose of this step in Sarah Taylor’s Vegan in 30 Days is to try new things and be prepared with many different salad ideas.  I’m kind of stumped by this step, which is why I haven’t posted my progress in a while.

I currently have three go-to salad recipes that I regularly use.

  1.  Chinese “chicken” salad: see this post and add Smart Strips Chick’n Style Strips by Lightlife.
  2. Southwestern Salad: corn, black beans, olives, and salsa or some type of southwestern dressing.
  3. Mixed salad: chick peas, grape tomatoes, sliced kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, balsalmic vinaigrette dressing.  Sometimes I use Follow Your Heart Vegan Cesar dressing and it seems like an entirely different salad.

I’m going to search Pinterest and other websites until I find four new salad recipes to try.  I’ll eat those over the next week or so and report back.  If anyone knows of a delicious vegan salad I should try, I would definitely appreciate suggestions!

Day Ten: Read Diet for a New America

This was actually the first step I took on my journey.  My sister, Alli, recommended it and loaned me her copy.  Unfortunately, I haven’t kept up on reading it every day.  I’m going to step it up and hope to finish it before the fall semester begins because it will be infinitely harder to get any recreational reading done at that point.

The book is very informative and makes a great, educated case for going vegan.  One of the things that I had no clue about prior to beginning John Robbins’ book is that animals killed for kosher meat are even less humanely slaughtered than the rest.  It is not as simple as avoiding kosher meat, either, because, due to costs, many parts of the animal cannot be sold as kosher, even though they are killed using the kosher method.  This much of the animals sold as meat on the market is needlessly butchered in this cruel manner.

I look forward to finishing the book and will post more about it in an upcoming blog entry.

Day Twelve: Eliminate Cheese

I have noticed that cheese is included in a lot of the vegetarian dishes offered in restaurants, seemingly because people think that there isn’t enough to the dish without including meat and cheese.

I have been eating a limited amount of cheese since I started working vegan meals into my daily diet.  I have found that cheese can usually be left out of recipes, or, in the case of last night’s dinner, can be replaced by vegan cheese.  I think this transition will be easy for me, with the exception of brie cheese, which I have grown to love over the recent years.

Day 13:  Take a tour of your local health food store

I am very fortunate to live in an area with a Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Follow Your Heart Market not far away.  Whole Foods is pretty pricy, so our grocery store of choice is Sprouts.  They have a plentiful fresh produce section, which drew us in as regular customers even before I began this journey.  My favorite section is their bulk foods.  This is where you can get dry fruit, rice, beans, lentils, nuts, flour, sugar, etc., all by the pound.  I have outfitted my pantry with a variety of storage containers with chalkboard labels.  This way, I can fill them with whatever I like and easily change the label.

My Pantry | A Vegan in Progress

I love my pantry!

As you can see in the photo, I keep a nut and dried cranberry mixture in the pantry in the pantry with a 1/3 cup measuring cup for easy snack bags to take to work and the movies.  I have compared the prices of both pre-packaged nut mixes and couscous, and the bulk variety is a huge money saver.

Sprouts grocery store also has a bulk spices section, which is helpful for when I try new recipes.  It’s much better to spend ninety cents on the exact amount of spices needed for a recipe rather than buy a whole new container of spices that I may never use again.

Day Eight

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Day eight in Vegan in 30 Days says to eliminate poultry.  I was definitely worried about this step because chicken and turkey were the only types of meat that I ever ate.  In Sarah Taylor’s book, she says that it was her biggest mental hurdle as well, but goes on to say that it was the easiest physical hurdle.  She points out that chicken doesn’t taste like much of anything, just the sauce and seasonings that is added to it.

Since I posted Day Seven, Part A, I have cut out the remaining meat from my diet.  It has been a lot easier than I had thought.  I began to realize that it wasn’t the chicken that I liked, but the food that happens to have chicken in it.  If I could get southwestern eggrolls from Chilis without the chicken (cheese too), I would be no less satisfied with the appetizer.  In terms of dining out, I can always try asking for menu items without certain ingredients, but in the case of something like southwestern eggrolls, I’m only going to get a vegan version if I make it myself.

This week, as part of my transition away from poultry, I tried making my own seitan, using a recipe from the The Vegan Slow Cooker: Simply Set It and Go with 150 Recipes for Intensely Flavorful, Fuss-Free Fare Everyone (Vegan or Not!) Will Devour cookbook.  You end up stretching the dough out and cutting it into pieces.  Once cooked, the pieces shrink quite a bit, so next time I may cut some even larger.  This seitan recipe is for use in slow cookers (it’s wetter) and it yields quite a bit of seitan, as you can see below.  It freezes well, so this will make vegan cooking a lot simpler!

Slow Cooker Seitan | A Vegan in Progress

Uncooked dough & cooked seitan in vegan broth

Packed up slow cooker seitan | A Vegan in Progress

The finished product, packed in broth

Day Seven, Part B & Day 3, Round 2

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So, I finally attempted a green smoothie, for Day 7 of Vegan in 30 Days. I used half a bag of peaches, half a bag of strawberries, half a bag of mixed berries, one fresh apple, about a cup and a half of sparkling pink lemonade (I didn’t have any juice on hand to use as a liquid), four stalks of celery, and a handful of mixed greens. I didn’t need any ice because the fruit was frozen to begin with. I probably should have used about a third of each bag of fruit because this yielded over 40 oz. of smoothie.

Green Smoothie | A Vegan in Progress

I was right about my blender, it couldn’t handle it. It would only blend what was directly next to the blades; it didn’t really mix around all of the contents. I had to stop the blender, shake the top part, trying to get it to mix up, and shove stuff down toward the blades using a spoon over and over again. I ended up taking half of the frozen fruit out, blending the first half, then adding the rest, then adding the veggies. After half an hour, I had a purplish, reddish, brownish smoothie.

Green Smoothie | A Vegan in Progress

It wasn’t bad, although, I think I may have been a little ambitious with the amount of celery I added. I know I could get used to it, but I noticed the flavor of the celery over the flavor of the fruit. The smoothie was a pretty filling meal. Before next time, I think I will have to invest in a new blender. The base was hot to the touch by the time I was done. In the future, to keep costs down, I may prepare the fruit myself and freeze it in smaller chunks.

For the rest of the day, I repeated Day 3, the fruit and veggie cleanse. I also ate a big tub of cut strawberries, a bag of cherries, and a small bag of carrots. It was easier to do the second time around and I may repeat it regularly.

My next step is Day 8, eliminating poultry. Soon, I plan to make some slow cooker seitan (meat substitute) from my new cookbook The Vegan Slow Cooker: Simply Set It and Go with 150 Recipes for Intensely Flavorful, Fuss-Free Fare Everyone (Vegan or Not!) Will Devour. I will to make some slow cooker recipes using the seitan and report back!

Day Seven, Part A

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Day 7 of the Vegan in 30 Days book says to start each day with a green smoothie.  I have to admit that that sounds extremely unappetizing to me right off the bat.  From what I have heard, though, fruit smoothies still taste fruity, even when greens are added.

In her book, Sarah Taylor explains that you can get more nutrition in a 32 oz. smoothie than most Americans get all day and 32 oz. only adds up to about 300 calories.  However, she points out that most blenders can’t handle ice and frozen items, which can cause the motor to burn out.  This is the reason that I keep putting off Day 7.  Our blender, originally purchased to make mudslides and rarely used because it’s not very strong, only cost $14 and probably isn’t up to the task.

I plan to head to Sprouts (our favorite place for produce) tonight, so I will get some cut and frozen fruit and give this a try.  The worst that can happen is our blender breaks and it forces me to buy a grown up blender!  So, this one is “to be continued”.

Another note:  I’m headed to Sprouts to stock up on produce so I can repeat Day 3, the fruit & veggie cleanse, for a couple of days.  Since our trip, I have fallen back into easy eating and have spent less time planning and preparing healthy foods.  I’m hoping this will be a good kick-start before I attempt Day 8: eliminating poultry.  That will be a toughie for me because that is all the meat that I currently eat!

Our First European Trip!

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Our First European Trip! | A Vegan in Progress

Eric and I are departing on our first European vacation this evening.  We are flying directly into Heathrow (a 10 1/2 hour flight – gah!) and will be staying in London for two nights.  We hope to see Westminster Abbey, Parliament & Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and a couple of good pubs while we are there.  Then we will catch the Eurostar to Paris where we will stay with our very generous friend, Harmony, for a week!  She is renting a small apartment in Montmartre, the town where Amelie was filmed.  While there, we plan to explore the beautiful neighborhoods of Paris and see the many sites.  We also have day trips planned to visit the Palace of Versailles and Disneyland Paris.

We have attempted to save for a vacation like this many times over our almost nine years together, but something always comes up that uses all of our savings (car repairs, etc).  I think what got us to make it happen this time was the invitation to stay with Harmony.  How could we pass that up?

I’ll be back to posting the week that we return.  Wish us Bon Voyage!

Days Three, Four, Five, and Six

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I have been really busy lately, so “Vegan in 30 Days” has really become Vegan in 30 Steps for me.  This is especially true because Eric and I are going on our first trip to Europe in a little more than a week.  Since I am not even comfortable with a fully vegan diet at home yet, I am not going to make things harder on myself by attempting to do it in London and Paris.  Like here, when given the option, I will choose to eat meat-free, but I know that it will be difficult to avoid things like cheese and cream.  Once we get home, I plan to get back on track and hopefully I will find time to post my progress every other day.

Day three in Sarah Taylor’s “Vegan in 30 Days” is to do a 24 hour fruit and vegetable cleanse.  This means to ideally eat only organic raw produce in whole and natural form.  The night before, we ran to our local Sprouts market and stocked up on fresh produce.  I came back with green grapes, granny smith apples, cherries, strawberries, peaches, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, and a 50/50 salad mix.

Cleanse | A Vegan in Progress

To make my morning easier, I pre-washed and cut everything that would hold up well overnight.  For breakfast, I ate two peaches at home and then snacked on these beautiful strawberries all morning at my desk.

Strawberries - Cleanse | A Vegan in Progress

For lunch I dined on baby carrots and cherries.  Later in the day I ate grapes and a salad that was tossed with a small amount of balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  I really enjoyed my food for the day, but I did feel that, instead of meals, I was just eating slowly all day long.  The book addresses this, explaining that produce metabolizes quickly, causing you to feel hungry sooner than when you eat meat.

Day four in “Vegan in 30 Days” says to eliminate red meat.  I have never really liked red meat much and therefore, don’t eat it too often.  Done!

Day five’s instructions are to try a few new substitutes for animal products.  I purchased Blue Diamond Almond Breeze milk for my morning cereal, but didn’t really like it.  I noticed that it sat on the bran flakes like a sort of residue and was generally unappetizing.  I also felt that there was a bit of an after-taste.  Next, I tried Silk Vanilla Soy Milk, which I thought complemented my raisin bran very well.  I also purchased some meat-free sun-dried tomato sausage that I plan to try this weekend with breakfast.

Day six suggests getting a fruit bowl and keeping it filled with fresh fruit.  We have always had a fruit bowl on our counter in the kitchen, but more often than not it is empty.  Being that there are only two of us in this family, we have had many occasions where we bought produce that went bad because we didn’t eat it quickly enough.  We are slowly shifting to weekly grocery store trips where we purchase less, but more fresh items.  This is definitely the foundation of a healthy habit for the both of us!